Goldman Sachs Group Inc. must turn over internal gender-bias complaints by female workers to lawyers representing women in a lawsuit alleging the firm discriminated against them in pay and promotions.
U.S. Magistrate Judge James Francis in Manhattan ruled yesterday that all complaints “conceivably related” to discrimination against women in the investment banking, securities, investment management and merchant banking divisions at Goldman Sachs must be shared with the attorneys, including the names of those who complained.
The order came in a 2010 group lawsuit alleging Goldman Sachs engages in a pattern and practice of sex discrimination against female associates and vice presidents.
Francis ruled for the plaintiffs’ lawyers in finding that New York-based Goldman Sachs must turn over internal complaints by all female employees in the divisions targeted by the lawsuit, and not just complaints by associates, vice presidents and managing directors.
“These employees may also have felt, either directly or indirectly, the negative impact of a pattern or practice of discrimination,” Francis said.
Michael DuVally, a spokesman for Goldman Sachs, declined to comment on the ruling.
Lawyers for Goldman Sachs argued against requiring disclosure of the internal complaints, saying many “have nothing to do with gender concerns,” according to Francis’s decision. In a letter to the judge, the bank’s lawyers called the request a “fishing expedition,” according to the ruling.
Francis said Goldman Sachs should have known the complaints sought were gender-related when they were made.
“Any complaints containing relevant buzzwords -- language such as sex discrimination, male or female, gender, glass ceiling, or women’s work, for example -- are clearly gender-related complaints,” Francis concluded.
The plaintiffs are H. Cristina Chen-Oster, a former vice president; Lisa Parisi, a former managing director; and Shanna Orlich, a former associate. They said in their complaint that Goldman Sachs gives its managers, most of whom are men, “unchecked discretion” over assigning responsibilities to their subordinates.
Chen-Oster claimed she told her supervisor in 1999 about an incident that took place in 1997 at a firm-sponsored dinner for a male employee who had been promoted to managing director. After the outing, which included a stop at a Manhattan topless bar, a male colleague pinned Chen-Oster against a wall outside her apartment, kissing and groping her.
Chen-Oster, after reporting the incident, was subjected to increased hostility and found herself marginalized at the firm, according to the complaint.
“While Chen-Oster’s career growth stagnated, the male colleague involved in the 1997 incident was promoted to managing director and finally partner,” according to the complaint. “Over the same period, he saw his compensation increase by more than 400 percent.”
The case is Chen-Oster v. Goldman Sachs & Co., 10-cv-06950, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).